By Mercedes Milligan, February 17, 2021 (Animation Magazine)
David Steward II’s Lion Forge Animation studio (Academy Award-winning Hair Love) is expanding its global creative, executive and production teams, announcing the addition of seasoned executives in several key positions for the much-in-demand studio that champions diversity and authenticity.
Two-time Emmy-award winning animation director and creative visionary Saxton Moore has been tapped as Executive Creative Director for Lion Forge Animation. Moore has worked with notable animation and entertainment companies throughout his career, including Netflix, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Sesame Street, FUSEtv and A+E, and brings over 20 years of experience to the role.
Ariel Yamus will bring his passion and 10-plus years of experience working in design, illustration and animation to the company in the role of Senior Creative Director. He will focus on exploring new methods of creativity for all areas, from storytelling to character design to audio production.
On the international front, Lion Forge has tapped Patricio Yamus to head up Lion Forge Animation Argentina, where he will serve as Studio Head and Executive Producer. Patricio was the founder and CEO of BLU Animation Studio – where he led a diverse, global team to provide animation production services to international clients in advertising, private equity, brands, government, live-action production and animation production worldwide.
Additionally, the studio has brought in a quartet of experienced and talented Executive Producers to support production, creative and marketing efforts across the company: Jimmy Thomas, Lina Foti, Ray Brown and Deena Boykin will bring their wealth of diverse experience to the studio, providing creative direction and support to the team.
Jimmy Thomas is a senior level creative executive with more than 30 years of entertainment business experience. He has been providing consulting services to executives at major entertainment companies for the last 15 years. He has also written and produced for a number of independent artists, record companies, movies and commercials – earning him several multi-platinum and gold records over his career. He was part of the Oscar-winning team that produced Hair Love.
Lina Foti has extensive experience in global international marketing and business development. She has worked with artists, producers, publishers and broadcasters all around the world, developing original IP for international audiences as well as setting-up global co-productions and localizing animation and live-action shows across Latin America and English-speaking countries. Her production credits work for various entertainment companies including NBCU, NatGeo Kids, Northern Pictures and more.
Ray Brown has over 25 years of entertainment experience – producing content and working with entertainers and influencers including Nick Cannon, Alfonso Ribiero, Shemar Moore, Quincy Jones, Sommer Ray and others.
Deena Boykin is a 20-year expert in successfully launching products and executing promotions in all channels of distribution at retail, with experience working with several major studios and entertainment companies including Disney, Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and more.
“I am incredibly excited to welcome our new and talented team members into the fold. Each person brings something new and exciting to the table, and I can’t wait to integrate them into our projects to see how we can continue to tell authentic and unique stories,” said Lion Forge Animation President.
Lion Forge founder Steward added, “Since the launch of Lion Forge Animation, it’s been our goal to put together the best talent working in the industry to tell these unrepresented stories in a meaningful way. This group enhances our ability to do just that – and we can’t wait to see the amazing work they do.”
Launched last year, Lion Forge Animation was behind the 2019 Academy Award winning, culturally resonating short Hair Love, directed by Matthew A Cherry. The animation studio contributes to the growth of Lion Forge IP with TV series and feature film adaptations and is one of the only African-American owned animation studios in the world, but unmatched in size and scale (and the only African-American owned studio with an Oscar).
The additions to the LFA team come on the heels of a busy summer and fall for the studio that saw a stream of major deals including a Hair Love spinoff series (Young Love with HBO Max), an exclusive first-look partnership with Imagine Kids+Family, and a multi-year / multi-project joint venture partnership with Chinese studio Starlight Media.
LFA’s deal with Imagine Kids + Family is centered around the animation company’s existing IP of both licensed and original ideas, starting with Chippy Hood, Puerto Rico Strong and Black Comic Anthology, among others. Content development includes short-form, TV series and digital, and is a part of a strategic global franchise and consumer products plan. With China’s Starlight Media, Lion Forge Animation is co-financing and co-producing a slate of original animated films as well as projects based on popular Lion Forge IP and broader cultural IP.
Lion Forge Animation sits within Steward’s holding company Polarity, which houses media businesses including the Lion Forge comics publishing unit. Steward II has been putting resources behind his vision of expanding the market for comics and comic-related pop culture to new age groups and demographics since the early 2010s, building a portfolio of titles and imprints that feature characters and creators from a wide variety of backgrounds. He’s extended that vision and ethic to the larger media landscape with an organization that can orchestrate content development, production and distribution across different channels.
With LFA, Steward is widening the diversity of creative voices available in the animated space. The company’s goal remains in line with what Steward and his team accomplished in publishing: to showcase a variety of authentic voices and experiences through their work, whether created internally or through partnership with top talent.